Ifirst came out to my parents five months, two weeks, and five days ago, give or take a bit depending on when you’re reading this. Why the exact numbers? Because I’m counting the days until things get better.
My folks are perfectly decent people, who raised me quite well in a loving household. They have an intense devotion to their Christian faith and the black-and-white worldview that goes along with a fundamentalist perspective. This permeates all facets of their life-everything from how they vote to how much they exercise.
And I’ve come to learn it also permeates their attitude toward their daughter when she tells them she is gay.
When I first spoke with my parents about my sexuality, my dad told me I was every father’s worst nightmare. When the subject of children and a family came up, he said he would never accept an adopted child as his grandchild. When I told them who my girlfriend was, he said he did not want to see her or hear her name. My mother told me I have turned my back on God and I’ve chosen a sinful lifestyle.
Recently, my mom and I got into an argument as to why I lied about my sexuality and my relationships. When I explained that her and my dad’s responses have proved the validity of my concerns about talking to them about those topics, she was furious that I would twist around the argument to make my decision to lie her fault.
On other occasions, my dad refused to say goodnight to me when I stayed at their house on Mother’s Day, and my mom told me she fears for my salvation every day-which means she prays for it daily too. After hearing a host of similar comments, I decided to tell them that they had hurt me. A few days ago, I told my dad I was hurt because he had said I was every father’s worst nightmare. His response? “You became every father’s worst nightmare when you told me you’re gay.”
For me, coming out changed so many things. It greatly altered my relationship with my parents; it forced me to lean on other people (not an easy thing for someone as fiercely independent as myself); and it intensified the importance of my relationship with my girlfriend. My mom said she thinks I was motivated, on a subconscious level, not to tell her about my sexuality because I am ashamed of it and because I know it is wrong. On the contrary, I think I resisted telling my parents because there was trepidation as to what it would feel like to be completely honest, to be known fully.
Today, October 11, is National Coming Out Day, a day when gays and their allies commemorate this desire to be known fully. I will celebrate with my girlfriend, who came out in high school, and we will probably order in a pizza and drink champagne. But I will also celebrate it in spirit with other members of the gay community, in Santa Barbara and elsewhere, because when one person comes out, it impacts everyone-the community becomes more vibrant, more authentic, and those who haven’t yet come out feel like doing so is a more possible reality.
Coming out to my parents has been excruciatingly difficult. But I am so glad I did. There are times when I feel badly about having told my parents, but then I realize my guilt is a response to their tears and anger, which is a result of their immense homophobia. And while I can’t control their feelings about me or their responses to me, I can decide whether or not I continue to let their hurtful words affect me negatively. I’m so glad that I had to come out to my parents only once, but if I had to, I would do it again in a heartbeat. I know that coming out-that being honest with who and what I am-is the best thing I can do.